Beijing, Tokyo look to break new ground in last 16 clash
December 06 2020 12:50 AM
FC Tokyo
FC Tokyo secured their place in the last 16 in the final group game with a 1-0 win over Perth Glory. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil


One of Beijing FC or FC Tokyo will become AFC Champions League quarter-finalists for the first time when they clash in the Round of 16 at Education City Stadium today. Unbeaten Group E winners with a club record 16 points, Beijing were one of the standout sides in the group stage, but they’ll need to buck a historical trend if they are to go any further in the competition.
The Chinese outfit have reached the knockout stage on three separate occasions – the most recent coming in 2015 – but fell at the first hurdle each time, with all three defeats coming against Korean opposition. Head coach Bruno Genesio said Beijing were determined to break new ground in the AFC Champions League. “It’s a very good opportunity for myself and for the club to make a new record in the club’s history. We’ve got a very good opportunity,” said Genesio. 
“I hope all my players will concentrate on the how we play the game instead of thinking only about the result. I believe if our players perform very well, we have a good chance of getting the result, and the chance to qualify for the next round will be an extra kind of motivation for our players. We’re not thinking about anything negative like pressure, we’re motivated by this.”
Alternatively, FC Tokyo’s place in the last 16 wasn’t secure until the final group game on Thursday, with the 2019 J League runners-up securing their progression with a 1-0 win over Perth Glory.
Like Beijing, Tokyo have never advanced beyond the Round of 16, falling to a 1-0 defeat against Guangzhou Evergrande in their maiden appearance in 2012, before suffering an away goals exit against Shanghai SIPG four years later.
Both of those defeats came against Chinese opposition, and both in Olympic years, but as the people of Tokyo know better than almost anyone, 2020 has rarely followed the script.
Head coach Kenta Hasegawa, however, isn’t worried about Tokyo’s AFC Champions League history. “I think that both teams have the same situation, also Beijing have never qualified from the Round of 16, so the situation is the same for both teams,” said Hasegawa.  “I know they are a powerful team and we will have to use all of our full force to win tomorrow. There are different types of Chinese teams and they have their own strengths. Mainly we can see that (Beijing) have very high-quality foreigners who are also united with some good Chinese players,” he added.
Working against FC Tokyo is the ongoing absence of Diego Oliveira, who hasn’t reappeared since he was injured against Shanghai Shenhua on November 27.
While Tokyo are still yet to confirm whether the 30-year-old will play any further part in this year’s tournament, fellow Brazilians Leandro and Adailton have contributed in his absence, both providing crucial goals to drive the club to the knockout stage.

Ulsan aiming to stay on track against Melbourne Victory
In another last 16 clash, Fit, focused and fresh from a scorching group stage campaign, Ulsan Hyundai FC will be chasing more of the same when they face Australia’s Melbourne Victory at Education City Stadium today. Frustrated to have narrowly missed out on domestic league and cup honours, Kim Do-hoon’s side have been untouchable in Doha, winning all five matches since arriving in the Qatari capital to register a total 16 points from six matches. Such was their dominance of Group F that an Ulsan outfit featuring just one of the 11 players from their previous outing eased to a 4-1 win over Shanghai Shenhua on Thursday, in a match where the Chinese side were fighting to stay alive in the tournament.
While Junior Negrao stood out by scoring 26 times in the K League this season, the goals have been coming from everywhere in Asia. Ulsan have netted a tournament-high 14, with four-goal midfielder Yoon Bit-garam one of four players in the squad to have found the back of the net multiple times in the group stage.
That impressive array of attacking weapons gives the Korean side confidence they can end a run of Round of 16 defeats which has seen them exit the competition in the past two seasons. The history that is in Ulsan’s favour comes from their previous meetings with Melbourne, with the Koreans winning 6-2 and drawing 3-3 in the group stage in 2018.

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